COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of concerned residents attended a meeting Tuesday evening to discuss potential amendments to the town’s controversial budget.
A town meeting went late into the night Tuesday, with more than 100 residents voicing their opinions on the town council’s proposed budget, which includes the controversial school budget. The current budget proposal, approved by the town council earlier this week, did not allocate any additional funds to the town’s public school system.
With no extra funding coming in, Coventry schools would face a more than $1 million shortfall. School officials said they would be forced to cut programs, such as junior varsity sports and ROTC, and decrease their budgets for school supplies.
Residents in Coventry proposed an amendment to the budget that would increase the tax rate by 4 percent to help pay for sports and other extra-curricular activities at town public schools. However, before that increase goes into effect, voters would have to approve the amendment during a town-wide, all-day referendum.
The town council decided that students would not be allowed inside the meeting for the hearing and vote. Many stood outside holding signs that stated their opinions on the proposed cuts. One sign read “Why take away our motivation 4 school,” while another stated “How was your graduation ceremony? If the budget cuts pass, I won’t have one.”
Eyewitness News spoke to both parents and students who felt the programs were vital to local teens.
“With the new core curriculum, everything is changing for these kids and they need to be on top of that, and they can’t do that without the resources and we can’t provide the resources without the money,” said parent Michelle Martin.
“It’s not looking good,” said student and JROTC Commander Caitlin Stalaboin. “The adults are not being adults and not taking responsibility for what needs to be done, and that’s to do something for the students.”
The tax increase, supporters say, would give schools an additional $1.3 million. The referendum is expected to be held within the next two weeks.